“Ah, fear not.” Abasi raised a bejeweled finger with a flourish and beckoned forth a new group. “I’m told you prefer men, and I’m nothing if not accommodating.”
Solon preferred willing partners, not slaves, but he wouldn’t risk insulting Abasi with his morals.
There was no easy way to get out of this. He’d have to select one of them.
As the newest line of elegant, supple bodies drew close, Solon caught the gaze of a tall man who moved with the feline grace of a street cat. His honey-colored hair hung in long, loose waves over his shoulders, and his pursed lips said he knew what a gem he was.
That light hair marked him as foreign among all the black silken tresses of the other concubines. Northern. From distant lands. How did he end up in an Egyptian harem so far south?
Solon stared. The man wore no paint, no kohl, and no gaudy decorations, just a simple green linen shift belted at the waist. His beauty needed no enhancement.
Rather than cast his gaze demurely at the floor, as the others had done, the blond met Solon’s stare…and winked.
A real smile at such a display of gumption replaced the fake one on Solon’s lips.
Abasi stood, and a servant bustled to move his chair out of the way. “Come, have a look. Shall I introduce them?”
Solon followed his host to the line of concubines. There were fewer men than women, but still quite the selection. Six men and nine women in total.
“That won’t be necessary.” Solon would prefer to retire alone for the night, but if he had to pick… “I’ve made my choice.”
Abasi knocked him on the back so hard Solon nearly stumbled. “I like a man who knows what he wants. Which will it be?”
The blond, without hesitation, stepped forward. Bold. He peered at Solon through half-lidded eyes, gaze intense, as if daring him to suggest anyone but himself.
“Him.” Solon gestured to the brazen slave, who only then deigned to lower his gaze.
“Ah, well chosen. That is Temaj, a beauty from the north and a wild cat beneath the sheets, or so I’m told. My tastes don’t run toward men.”
“Then why have them in your harem?” The question was out of Solon’s mouth before he could think better of asking. Luckily, the viceroy didn’t seem offended. Rather, the man laughed.
“A proper harem must contain both, dear Solon, for how else are you to please all your guests?”
Solon would never understand the lives of the rich or the royal. When he retired from the army, he wanted only a plot of land, a good mule, decent tools, and, if he was very lucky, perhaps someone to share it with, though he expected to end up alone.
“How do you want him?” asked Abasi.
Solon cocked his head. “What do you mean?”
Abasi gestured to Temaj, who stood silently as if he didn’t mind two men discussing him as if he weren’t there. “How do you want him dressed? Done up? What are your preferences?”
“Oh. Nothing,” said Solon.
Temaj startled and bestowed on him a glower that would send a dog’s tail sticking between its legs.